The Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics Missions Section (SCI-FMA), as part of the Advanced Payload and Mission Concepts Office, is responsible for system studies (phase 0/A) of the ESA Science Programme mission candidates in the fields of Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics. SCI-FMA is also supporting planning, monitoring and development of technology developments in the relevant science areas.
SCI-FMA has the following tasks:
- Management of Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics missions in phase 0/A
- Definition of mission and system requirements for industrial studies
- Definition of the corresponding Technology Development Plans
- Development of related technologies required for future missions, in close co-operation with the Technology Preparation Section (SCI-FT)
- Conducting Technology Reference Studies in preparation for future calls for missions
- Interfacing to external entities/International Partners when relevant
- Definition and coordination of required support from ESA's Directorate of Technical and Quality Management (TEC) and ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) for the studies.
SCI-FMA is responsible for the assessment studies of numerous Cosmic Vision mission candidates, by providing the associated study managers. The studies presently being carried out are:
- ATHENA (L2): The Advanced Telescope for High ENergy Astrophysics (selected as L2, a large-class mission), currently in Phase A, featuring an X-ray telescope with high resolution spectroscopy and wide-field spectrally-resolved imaging significantly exceeding the performance of existing X-ray observatories.
- Gravitational Wave Observatory (L3): A mission to detect and observe gravitational waves covering the frequency range from 0.1 mHz to 1 Hz.
- ARIEL (M4 candidate): The Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-Survey, currently in Phase A. ARIEL includes a 1-m class Telescope with a Near Infrared Spectrometer for ExoPlanet atmosphere composition measurement.
- XIPE (M4 candidate): The X-ray Imaging and Polarimetry Explorer, currently in Phase A. XIPE is an X-ray telescope carrying three multi-shell Wolter I type mirrors and three polarimeters based on Gas Pixel Detector technology.
- IXO, International X-ray Observatory, formerly known as XEUS, an L1-class candidate in cooperation with JAXA and NASA, representing the potential follow-on mission to XMM-Newton.
- LOFT, The Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (medium-class candidate for the M3 slot).
- ECHO, The Exoplanet Characterization Observatory (medium-class candidate for the M3 slot).
- STE-QUEST, The Space-Time Explorer and QUantum Equivalence Principle Space Test (medium-class candidate for the M3 slot)
- Euclid, a dark Universe observatory (medium-class candidate, later selected as for the second medium class (M2) launch opportunity)
- PLATO, Planetary Transit and Oscillations of Stars (medium-class candidate, later selected for the third medium class (M3) launch opportunity).
- SPICA, Space IR Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics, a JAXA-led mission to which ESA would contribute within an M-class envelope.
Completed Technology Reference Studies (preparation for Cosmic Vision activities) performed by SCI-FMA:
- CMB Polarisation Mission (2016)
- New Generation Cryo-IR telescope (2014)
- Exoplanet Spectroscopy Mission (2010)
- Gamma Ray Lens (2007)
- Wide Field Imager (2006)
- Far IR Interferometer (2006)
- Cosmic Microwave Polarisation Mapper (2007)
- Fundamental Physics Explorer (2008)